I'm watching a girl walk through the snow from behind some trees, and I don't feel good about it. Yeah, the camera is probably placed far enough away from this girl – named Tove – just to give the impression of depth, with silhouettes of trees or carved wooden figures flanking either side of the screen. But I can't help but feel I'm looking through the eyes of some woodland creature, one that's not entirely familiar. But this is what Röki is all about. The point-and-click adventure game from Polygon Treehouse has ex-Guerrilla developers behind it, telling the tale of Tove and the search for her younger brother after he's kidnapped by a mysterious monster named Röki (the one with the big, toothy, definitely-creepy grin in the picture above). And let me tell you, after playing it at E3 2019 it may look sweet, but there's something hiding just below the surface that's giving me chills.
The creepy is in the details
In Röki, Tove explores woods, underground caverns, and mountain tops that have a mythical quality about them: there might be a troll underneath a bridge, a giant white wolf sleeping on top of a mountain's peak, or strange torches illuminating an underground pathway. Playing it gave me some strong Pan's Labyrinth vibes, as these monsters Tove meets aren't typical. Like Ofelia's tale, each creature has its own foibles and are about as varied as humankind, so even though Röki is almost definitely evil, the troll I stumble across is chill but clearly bothered by the sword (or 'thorn' as he called it) stuck in his shoulder. The rules aren't clear as to who's good and who's evil in Röki. Everything I encounter is met with a suspicious look, and because I'm not sure whether it's on my side or not I felt perpetually on edge.
Playing Röki is pleasantly simple. I had to help get the sword out of my troll buddy's shoulder, so it was time to explore Tove's surroundings. Tapping a button helpfully illuminates all the objects you can interact with, so you can always tell which objects can be used or investigated, meaning that you don't have to waste time trying to click on everything within arm's reach. As someone who's not particularly gifted when it comes to point-and-click games (I'm way too impatient) that feature is a gift. There's also the usual business of combining items in your inventory, so point-and-click veterans will feel comfortably familiar in its Scandinavian world, but really the stuff that's not useful matters most. Tiny bits of story emerge with every object you click on, meaning that you're not stuck trying to get exposition from wordy NPCs; instead the world hints at what happened before Tove arriving. Take the time, and you'll find that Röki has more depth to it than you'd assume from a first glance.
The troll hiding underneath the bridge might have been friendly, but other small details are unnerving enough to make me feel like I'm being watched. A stone marker lists all the children that have gone missing from this part of the world, only it's found in a small shed right next to a snowed-in church, as if the people who built it wanted to hide this reminder of the past away. Mushrooms disappear into the ground whenever I get close, and strange metal symbols sway in the breeze. Although the gameplay was pretty simple, Röki already looks like one of those comfy Sunday afternoon games you can play to while away the time… and might even make you keep an extra-tight hold on your baby brother.
If you want to play another adventure game while you wait for Roki to come out, here's the best singleplayer games you can play in 2019, or look below to watch our preview of Watch Dogs Legion!